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New name graces same old tavern

The little bar at 123 Hyde Park Blvd., which has changed hands over the decades, once again has a new owner.

By MICHAEL CANNING and AMY SCHERZER
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 8, 2002


BUILDING A BETTER MOUSETRAP: The Mousetrap Lounge picks up where the Peanut Gallery left off. And so the odyssey of the little bar in the shadow of the minarets continues.

Open for several decades, the old Refuge bar at 123 Hyde Park Blvd. has evolved along with its neighborhood. It was originally a favorite of the downtown and South Tampa elite. Then the student crowd from nearby University of Tampa became regulars, and eventually the homeless came.

In the mid to late '90s eclecticism reigned during the incarnation of Albi's 123. A mixture of all its previous customer groups bellied up, plus a new artsy element drawn by a popular poetry reading series.

For the past couple of years the aptly named Peanut Gallery held sway. Now new business owner Richard Jordan uses the word "yuppie" a lot when talking about the mix he wants to draw to his Mousetrap Lounge. He's spurred in part by his neighbors, businesses that include restaurants, art galleries, professional offices and clothing boutiques.

Jordan, bar proprietor for 38 years, is renovating Mousetrap Lounge with new floor tile, decorations and a paint job in black, gold and red, UT's colors.

He's also commissioning a UT art student to restore the bar's famous mural, which depicts a motley assortment of neighborhood characters whooping it up at a bar. The beer selection will include "All the yuppie beers," as Jordan puts it: Guinness, Bass, Yuenling, plus wine coolers.

He hopes to open within a week or two.

* * *

HAIR SALON COMING TO YBOR: Connie Thorpe grew up in the neighborhood. She remembers the old 1923-vintage gas station at the corner of 15th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Now it will house her new business, Jazzy B Hair Studio.

The hair stylist says she chose the spot because, "It's a good location. I like how the building is set up." She says she'll have a staff of five other beauticians. The salon will emphasize barbering and natural hair, the no-products school of styling currently in vogue.

Until earlier this year the old gas station housed Art and Moore Gallery. It closed four months ago, after a four-year run.

Thorpe says the grand opening will be Tuesday.

* * *

MORE MUM THAN MOO: We know buildings can't talk. But we can't help imagining the Wendy's, sitting in its near-deserted plaza at Kennedy and Rome, taunting its neighboring Winn Dixie store.

"Where's the beef, beef people? Still don't see the beef!"

The Winn Dixie Marketplace at 1602 W Kennedy Blvd. closed in May 2000 after four years of business. With it went many hopes for the revitalization of the downtown Kennedy corridor and surrounding neighborhood.

The store has sat shuttered ever since. But now Winn Dixie spokesman Mickey Clerc says, "We want to do something with it. We are looking at some of the stores we have previously closed for possible re-opening." Clerc added the company is also considering sub-leasing these properties. Nearly all Winn Dixie stores are in leased buildings.

Clerc wouldn't say whether the Kennedy store is being considered for re-opening or sub-leasing.

* * *

THERE CAN STILL be a restaurant at downtown's gateway. Trish Moore remains convinced of it.

So much so that she's outfitted an unoccupied unit of her renovated building strip at Kennedy Boulevard and Edison Street like a bistro. Tables, booths, fixtures, bathrooms, even a partial kitchen.

That way, prospective tenants won't have to strain their imaginations to see that this place could be a restaurant. "Yes, that's exactly it. Most people that came couldn't see past their nose," Moore said of early lookers who visited the 912 W Kennedy Blvd. storefront when it featured little more than finished drywall and electric outlets.

Moore and her husband, Terrence, bought this and two neighboring buildings at the southeast corner of Kennedy and Edison in February 2001. The old buildings sat vacant for 15 years. They needed extensive renovations.

Now they sport splashy colors and tile work, and a near-capacity roster of tenants including a hair salon, art gallery, a law office, an ad agency and a cellular phone business.

In May, the City Council denied the Moores permission to serve liquor at a proposed pool hall at 912. But they still have permission to sell beer and wine at that location.

"It has to be a restaurant," said Trish Moore.

- Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail citytimes@sptimes.com.

THE FIND

Amber and turquoise accessories

Chinese turquoise accents amber nuggets in this striking necklace from Adornment Unlimited. Owner Elizabeth Burns makes the one-of-a-kind jewelry, each a conversation piece. Necklace, $98, matching bracelet, $38, at Adornment Unlimited, 4218 Henderson Blvd. Call 288-0034 for hours.

-- AMY SCHERZER

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